The Syrian regime is using ‘‘vacuum bombs’’ to target civilians, it has emerged, as a team of disarmament experts arrived in Damascus on Tuesday to dismantle the country’s chemical weapons stocks.
The fuel-air explosive bombs detonate high in the air, creating a vacuum and spraying out a cloud of fuel that ignites to create a second blast wave. They were used in an attack on a school in the northern rebel-held city of Raqqa on Sunday, killing 14 people.
A convoy of United Nations vehicles is seen as a chemical weapons disarmament team cross into Syria. Photo: AFP
‘‘Body parts were scattered all over the place,’’ a lawyer who arrived on the scene minutes after the blast told Human Rights Watch. ‘‘They were just shreds, not full bodies, just pieces.’’
The lawyer, who refused to be named, said he saw the mutilated bodies of boys and girls aged 15 to 17 and a caretaker. Video footage of the remnants of corpses was posted by local activists on YouTube, with the cries of children’s voices piercing the background.
The human rights group identified the explosives used. Though not strictly an incendiary bomb or chemical weapon, a fuel-air bomb is more powerful than regular high explosive munitions, making it a highly indiscriminate weapon.
An advance group of international inspectors is being dispatched to Syria to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons. Yesterday, 20 inspectors from the OPCW, a chemical watchdog at The Hague, arrived in Damascus.
‘‘While the world tries to bring Syria’s chemical weapons under control, government forces are killing civilians with other extremely powerful weapons,’’ said Priyanka Motaparthy, Middle East child rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The Telegraph, London